In the classic movie, The Sound of Music, Maria sings a song to the captain about her unexpected fortune in finding his love. The lyrics of the song give the impression that their relationship must have been the result of something good she did.
Perhaps I had a wicked childhood
Perhaps I had a miserable youth
But somewhere in my wicked, miserable past
There must have been a moment of truth
For here you are, standing there, loving me
Whether or not you should
So somewhere in my youth or childhood
I must have done something good
We tend to think the same way about bad things that happen. Why is it that someone’s relative is in the hospital? Apart from whatever physical event happened, was there a reason God allowed this to happen? Was the person living in sin? Were they running from God? While these questions seem overly judgmental, we have seen some people suffer the consequences of their sins. So, is it really a stretch to wonder that about other people? The problem with this kind of thinking is that we are analyzing current events without knowledge of what God is doing behind the scenes. If we are honest, we really don’t know why things happen.
In Job 8-10, we will see that this way of thinking is not something new. It was practiced thousands of years ago when Job’s friends addressed what they thought was a flaw in Job’s character. What had he done to deserve God’s judgment?
- Bildad thought that Job’s tragedy was his own fault (Job 8).
After listening to the argument given by Eliphaz and Job’s response, Bildad gave a simple devotional to Job explaining why God had judged Job. To him there was no other explanation. It was perfectly clear that Job and his family were under the judgment of God.
Maybe God judged your children for their sins (8:4). Bildad seems to have been offended by what Job was saying. He seemed to think that Job was accusing God of being unjust. God is just. He always does what is right. So how could Job question what had happened to him and his children. Maybe God grew tired of being merciful to Job’s children. Maybe they finally crossed the line and were judged by God as were the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. If so, their deaths were the result of their own sins.
Maybe God isn’t listening because you are impure (8:6). Bildad had a high view of God’s goodness to his loyal followers. In his mind, God always helped those who sought Him and always rewarded those who were pure. This is why he called Job to examine his own life. Perhaps these bad circumstances were a result of Job’s sinful behavior. While Job was not known as a sinful man, perhaps there were somethings in his life that nobody but God knew. This leads to the next thought.
Maybe God has afflicted you because you forgot Him (8:12-13). Bildad suddenly thought of an illustration that explained how Job at first had success and then hit rock bottom. He was like a papyrus reed in a marsh. Just as a reed grows for a while and then withers, so had Job. He had wealth and success for a while and then all this happened. In Bildad’s mind this was the end of all who forgot God. Job must have been enjoying his wealth too much and then forgot God.
Bildad actually said some good things. There are consequences for sin. There are consequences for not listening to God. There are consequences for forgetting God. But despite the truths in his words, they did not apply to Job. He wrongly assumed that he had all the fact and knew for certain what God was doing. This was a mistake.
- Job responded with several important question (Job 9-10).
In response to Bildad’s statements, Job agreed with some of his ideas. He agreed that sin has its consequences and that God often rewards the righteous and punishes the wicked. However, his situation wasn’t easily explained by these statements because he had been living a righteous life. So he followed up with several questions.
How can anyone be righteous before God? (9:2) This is a good question. We know from other parts of the Bible, that apart from the imputed righteousness of Jesus, none of us is actually righteous in God’s eyes (Isa. 64:6; Rom. 3:10-13). Job rightly asked how one could get God’s attention and claim to be righteous. God knows all of our failings and knows that we are not good inside.
Who can question what God is doing? (9:12) Job describes God’s omnipotence in several ways. God can move mountains (9:5), hold back the sun (9:7), and made all the stars (9:9). Being that God is so powerful in being able to do such impossible things, who are any of us to question what He is doing?
Who else could be causing these problems? (9:24) In verses 21-24, Job asserts his blameless character but begins to question what he saw happening around him. From Job’s perspective, God destroys both the blameless and the wicked. He even blamed God for laughing when the innocent suffer and holding back judges from doing right. But his question in verse 24 comes very close to discovering who was behind the bad things happening to him. If it were not God, who else could it be? We know that it was Satan behind his suffering, but Job didn’t know that.
Why was God doing this to him? (10:7) Job pours out his thoughts in verses 1-7. He turns to God with real questions. He asked to show him what he had done wrong. Did God think this was a good way to work with his children? Was it fair for God to punish him for not being wicked? Sadly, Job didn’t know how he could find deliverance from what he assumed was God’s judgment.
Did you notice something about Job’s questions? He began by asking these questions to Bildad, then to himself, and finally to God. He answered his friend’s comments first by talking about his humble standing before God. Next he asked himself if someone else could be causing the problems. Finally, he asked God why he was being afflicted. If nothing else, Job’s questions finally turned him to ask the One who had the answers. Despite his misunderstanding of his circumstances, this was the right thing to do.
What do we learn from Bildad and Job today? From Bildad, we learn that it is not wise to apply general principles to every situation. General principles are good to have but we have to admit that we don’t always have all of the facts when trying to figure things out. Before we decide to judge another person’s situation, we need to step back and admit that we are not God. He alone has the complete understanding of the situation.
From Job, we can learn the same lesson. He was right to state that none of us is righteous and that we have no right to question God’s motives. But then he did just that. He would have done better to admit that his knowledge of the situation was limited and that God can do as He sees fit. Before we begin to question God’s motives or assign blame to Him for our situation, remember that God is still the loving Father who always does what is best. If you know God, you know that He is good. And you also know that He is wise. Instead of questioning His motives every time something bad happens, maybe it would be better to assume that God is still in control and it will all work out in the end.